The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea began as a local initiative in Madison
County, following the tornado that struck Berea, Kentucky's Old Town area in
1996, damaging a number of artisan shops and weakening these artisans and
others' ability to market their work with visitors to the state. Area artisans,
legislators, city officials and representatives from Berea college and Eastern
Kentucky University's Center for Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, and
Technology gathered to develop plans for an artisan center that would provide
new visibility for their artisans' and the products they create.
As planning developed, the group involved the late Dr. Roy Peterson, then
Secretary of the Education, Arts, and Humanities Cabinet, and over time the
project became a state project developed by the Tourism Development Cabinet in
partnership with the Education, Arts and Humanities; Finance, and
The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea was created as an economic development initiative. Construction for
the Center was funded by the 1998 and 2000 Kentucky legislatures, and its
governing body, the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea Authority, was established
in March 1999.
In 2000 building design was begun. In March 2002
its logo was
unveiled. In April 2002 a ground sweeping
was held. The building was under construction,
April 2002- July 2003 and a ribbon
cutting ceremony was held on July 30, 2003.
The Center continues to be overseen by the Kentucky
Artisan Center at Berea Authority Board, a 13-member board representing local,
regional and state partners.
In June, 2005 the Center co-hosted the annual CODA (Craft organization Development
Association) conference with the Kentucky Craft Marketing Program.
In 2007, NPR aired a story nationally on the Center's rest rooms featuring fresh cut
flowers gathered and arranged by maintenance staff. This followed a designation of
the Center as having the "cleanest and best designed restrooms on I-75" by Dave Hunter,
publisher of the respected ALONG I-75 Travel Guides.
In July, 2008, just weeks before its 5th anniversary, the
Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea welcomed its millionth visitor.
In fall 2010 the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea operated a satellite store on the Kentucky Horse Park grounds in Lexington,
KY during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games September 25 - October 10. This store was
part of the Kentucky Experience, which introduced thousands of people from around the world
to great Kentucky products and experiences. The Center also presented Kentucky artisan
demonstrations on site.
In May 2012 the Center welcomed its two millionth visitor. In 2013
the Center will celebrate its 10th anniversary with special events July 19-21.